8/25/11-Thousands turn out to pay respects to Layton
Thousands of people lined up on Parliament Hill on Wednesday to pay their last respects to Jack Layton whose body will lie in state until Thursday when it will return to Toronto for a state funeral planned for Saturday, Aug. 27.
Layton, leader of the Official opposition, died on Monday, Aug. 22. He was 61.
A silence fell across the Hill as the procession carrying the flag-drapped casket of Layton arrived just before 11 a.m. His casket was escorted to the Centre Block by military and RCMP personnel where it was placed in the foyer of the House of Commons. Layton’s widow, Olivia Chow, and his children, Michael and Sarah and granddaughter Beatrice, walked behind the casket.
“It is great seeing our friend and leader making his way down that hall of honour for the last time,” said Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar.
He said it was very tough for him to imagine life without Layton.
“Life without Jack is really tough,” said Dewar. “He is the person who gave us guidance, gave us hope and inspiration.”
He admitted with no doubt that it is going to be a very difficult time ahead without the charismatic New Democratic Party leader there.
The number of dignitaries who joined those who came to Parliament Hill to pay their last tribute was far more than expected, prompting a half-hour delay to the public visitation.
Dewar said he was blown away by the amount of support.
“When I see that line, my heart swells and just think of how touched Canadians were by Layton,” Dewar said.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife Sharon, former governor general Michaelle Jean and her husband Jean-Daniel Lafond and Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, were among many dignitaries who signed the condolence book.
Ed Broadbent, one of Layton’s political mentors, was also among the first to offer his condolences to the grieving family.
“This is a very sad day,” said Broadbent
He hopes the new NDP caucus would continue with the “wonderful spirit and positive attitude about politics in Canada.”
“They didn’t get there for a vague notion but for real social change, for the benefit of ordinary people and they are determined to continue with this mandate.”
Ryan Sudds, a Vancouver resident visiting Ottawa, was among the thousands of people who lined up to bid farewell to a man he said he had connected with.
“I am here because Jack really meant a lot to me,” said Sudds.
He said he was confident the NDP would be able to keep Jack’s dream a live and keep fighting for the things he believed in.
“It it’s been a rough two days,” he said.
Layton’s state funeral will be held at 2 p.m. at the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.
The NDP leader had been initially diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2010 and had hip surgery just before the May 2 federal election. He took a leave from his leadership duties of the NDP in late July after he was once again diagnosed with cancer.
Jack Layton was born July 18, 1950 in Montreal and was raised in Hudson, Que. His father, Robert Layton, was a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and his grandfather, Gilbert Layton, was a Quebec cabinet minister.
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